It's Hearing Loss Not Dementia
The Hearing Clinic - Scarborough, ON

Woman with hearing loss concerned about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

In seniors with memory loss or diminished mental function, the underlying dread of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant. But the latest research indicates that these problems might be the result of a far more treatable condition and that some of the worry might unfounded.

According to a study that appeared in a Canadian medical journal, the symptoms that actually might be the consequences of neglected hearing loss are often mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers carefully evaluated participant’s functional capabilities related to thought and memory and looked for any connections to potential brain disorders. Out of those they evaluated for cognitive impairments, 56 percent had loss of hearing that ranged from mild to severe. Astonishingly, only about 20 percent of those people reported using a hearing aid.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who authored the study. In many circumstances, the reason behind that patient’s visit to the doctor was due to their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who recommended an appointment with a doctor.

The Blurred Line Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult considers when dealing with potential cognitive damage, it’s easy to see how one can mistake it for Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can be easily imagined. As an example, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would know that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people might have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing professionals. Instead, it may very well be a persistent and progressive hearing problem. If you didn’t hear what someone said, then you can’t be expected to remember it.

Progressive Loss of Hearing is Normal, But it Can be Treated

Considering the connection between aging and an increased probability of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people of a certain age could be having these problems. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that only 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have debilitating hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number jumps significantly for older age brackets, coming in at 8.5 percent for 55- to 64-year-olds; 25 percent for 65- to 74-year-olds; and 50 percent for people 75-years or older.

Gradual loss of hearing, which is a typical part of growing older, often goes untreated because people just accept it as part of life. In fact, it takes around 10 years on average for a person to get treatment for loss of hearing. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will ultimately buy them.

Is it Possible That You Might Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss extreme enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I regularly ask people to talk louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to increase the volume on the radio or television to hear?
  • If there is a lot of background sound, do I have an issue understanding words?
  • Do I try to avoid social situations because having a conversation in a loud room is difficult?
  • Is hearing consonants hard?

It’s important to point out that while hearing loss can be commonly confused with Alzheimer’s, science has proven a definitive link between the two conditions. A Johns Hopkins study tested the mental abilities of 639 people who reported no mental impairments, then followed their progress and aging for 12 to 18 years. The study found that the worse the loss of hearing at the beginning of the study, the more likely the person was to experience symptoms of dementia which is a term that refers to impaired memory and thought.

Getting a hearing screening is one way you can prevent any confusion between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss. The current thought in the health care community is that this assessment should be a regular part of your annual physical, especially for those who are over 65.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

We can help with a complete hearing examination if you think there is a chance you could be confusing hearing loss with Alzheimer’s. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today